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Sir Clive Sinclair's X-1 pedal-electric hybrid

By

November 4, 2010

The pedal-electric Sinclair X-1

The pedal-electric Sinclair X-1

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The name Sinclair was stamped on single-person electric transport way back in 1985 with the world's first mass produced electric vehicle – the Sinclair C5. Fast forward to 2010, drop a wheel, shed lots of weight, add modern batteries and you start to get a picture of the newly developed Sinclair Research X-1. Essentially an electric-assist recumbent bicycle with an open-sided fairing, it has the aerodynamics, ergonomic pedaling position and weather protection of a velomobile, yet its weight and price are closer to those of an electric-assist bicycle.

The pedal-electric Sinclair X-1

Sinclair is widely known for its C5 pedal/electric three-wheeler, which was designed by company founder and pioneering inventor of the ZX range of computers, Sir Clive Sinclair. The mid-80s vehicle was a commercial flop – only around 17,000 units were sold. Reasons cited for its lack of popularity include poor battery life, worries about drivers not being able to see it on the road and rider exposure to the elements. Look around at the current landscape littered with electric-vehicles and single-person transport concepts however, and you could well argue that it simply suffered from being a vehicle ahead of its time.

The Sinclair C5 was released in 1985 (Gizmag photo)

The Sinclair C5

A quarter of a century later – not surprisingly – the X-1 appears to have addressed all of those problems with its modern-day 24V lithium battery, tall stance and some rain protection via its acrylic bubble canopy. It also has a 190W MCR pancake motor linked to the rear wheel by a fixed gear drive chain, an integrated roll cage and a carbon fiber monocoque chassis with built-in front and rear lights. It all adds up to a total weight of 30kg (66lbs), which is the same as an eSpire electric-assist mountain bike.

The pedal-electric Sinclair X-1

If there’s anything that looks iffy on the X-1, it’s those little 16-inch wheels. They won’t be the greatest for attaining high speeds, and look like they would fit nicely inside of a good-sized pothole.

The Sinclair Research X-1 is priced at £595 (US$846), with an expected delivery date of July 2011.

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
16 Comments

I LOVE this concept. I have a semi-recumbent Evox 140 and have seen similar adaptations made to this same model to achieve similar results. A fellow from Calgary, AB, Canada used and electric assist kit, plexi-glass shield and neoprene wind sock to reduce drag and increase comfort for a trip from Banff to Calgary. It seemed like an expensive upgrade, but well worth the effort! ;-)

Henry A. Rody
5th November, 2010 @ 06:20 am PDT

I can't beleive it! Finally a price that makes sense. I have seen some of these pedal assists coming in priced in the thousands US. Who pays that? This seems like a great little bike. I would like to see it with larger wheels as the article states though, additionaly it would be nice to see the range of this thing. I wonder how you park it?

Paul Anthony
5th November, 2010 @ 08:29 am PDT

Yes, this is good to see a pricepoint that is sensible. I want a bit more bike though. remember this has the mass of a standard diamond cycle, motors on each included?

The steering system is prone to flex, inherently. The wheels may be wide enough for potholes, but not high enough for curbs. Smaller is stronger, especially in spoke construction, ah!

Still out in the weather too much, still traveling single, not tandem and still setting where your head is lower than those in the cars on the road. I prefer to design for equal head hight (to car) and a semi-recumbent where the heels never come up to the hips, more like the nicer gymnasium-bound exercise bikes put you. Side impact tube, a heater via propane add on in winter...etc.

Nice to see a pricepoint for mass item, the velos are too rare to compare and project against.

Walt, low kinetic human hybrid llc

waltinseattle
5th November, 2010 @ 03:20 pm PDT

The Prius has 16 inch wheels and I don't believe people talk about it stumbling in a pot holes although bigger would be better for both.

Rohn
5th November, 2010 @ 05:34 pm PDT

I t looks quite promising. Add a couple of zipper attached transparent waterproof sidecurtains for better weather resistance and aerodynamics, some beefier tires and a 500w motor and I think it would be a winner.

Michaelc
5th November, 2010 @ 07:58 pm PDT

Interest.

However, a big safety oversight in my view is Sir Sinclair neglected to put safety lights or good sized reflectors on the upper back of the X-1 pedal-electric hybrid for night travel. Certainly the latter could easily be put on by the buyer, post purchase, but still, the cost to put on at least reflectors as factory standard is negligible, and it's lack inexcusable imho.

yrag
6th November, 2010 @ 08:39 am PDT

"you could well argue that it simply suffered from being a vehicle ahead of its time."

Not even close. It was underpowered, uncomfortable and had poor cycling ergonomics. The C1 looks better, but may still suffer from the third unless that seat position can be adjusted forward and back.

Rohn,

The Prius has 15" rims, not wheels. Add another 8" or so of tire diameter. Plus its tires are about 7x wider than the X-1 tires. It does look like they did put a leading link front suspension on this X-1, which would help a little bit with potholes.

Gadgeteer
6th November, 2010 @ 11:16 am PDT

I wonder why they didn't fit the motor directly onto the rear wheel? There is still the problem of not being seen easily by other vehicles. People don't complain about weather protection for cyclists. There is no mention of regenerative braking. Lastly, this vehicle is not covered by safety legislation, presumably.

Let's hope Sir Clive has better luck with this model than the C5. I think the time is now right, and the price seems to be pretty good. I wonder how long the re-charging time is?

windykites1
6th November, 2010 @ 11:17 am PDT

I agree with the notion of something to protect again elements from the side.

I would like numbers of how much work is required for various velocities.

And a question with sitting in an enclosed area, with a two wheeled vehicle, how does it stay upright when at a stop?

It would be nice if a standard feature included reflectors on the side and front and rear lights nothing on the order of a car light but I cannot see how to attach a bicycle light Does it have mounting positions?

waitinseatle, the 16 inch wheels comparison is apples and oranges. The wheel size reporte for an automobile is just for the rim, not rim and tire. A check of several online tire stores gave a typical diameter for the tires for a 16 inche rim of 25-28 inches with the smallest being 22.91 inches and the largest being 29.94 inches. This vehicle has a total wheel diameter of 16 inches, that is why a pot hole is a bigger problem for it than an automobile.

I do find the price most attractive.

NatalieEGH
7th November, 2010 @ 09:31 am PST

To yrag and others..

As stated in the article and on the Sinclair website, the X-1 has

"built in front and rear lights"

axio
7th November, 2010 @ 04:28 pm PST

People asking for curtains or doors on the side here don't know much about enclosed human-powered vehicles. Close up that opening and it's going to have a lot of side area. Any slight crosswind would force you to strain to ride a straight line. Especially because this is a bicycle rather than a tricycle. Moreover, it would be outright dangerous when cornering in high winds. Fully-faired two-wheel competition streamliners steeply banked into turns have been known to have their fairings act like a wing in a crosswind, lifting the wheels and leading to crashes.

Gadgeteer
8th November, 2010 @ 04:59 am PST

@Rohn

The Prius may have 16in wheels, but it also has tyres that are 3 inches thick and 5 inches wide... unlike this bike

mommus
24th November, 2010 @ 06:02 am PST

Good use of Pedal Power.

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

Anumakonda Jagadeesh
20th December, 2010 @ 07:08 am PST

An excellent price considering that most recumbent bikes without fairings or electric assist are 3-4 times that price. I hope that when it's marketed that there will be added options like choice of wheel size and motor power.

Edgar Walkowsky
16th February, 2011 @ 10:59 pm PST

Ok, so here we are on July 21, 2011, and still the Sinclair Research website says delivery expected in July 2011. No update. How close is this product to being real, rather than just a concept and prototype? And when will it reach the United States?

overbyte
21st July, 2011 @ 07:06 am PDT

What a tease! For $900, they should be flying off the shelves. Here it is 2012, and I have never seen these for sale.

Facebook User
16th May, 2012 @ 01:04 am PDT
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